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FAQs / Ask The Rethinker

  • What is the CartSMART program?
    CartSMART is the name of the program for the weekly Recycle, Compost and Garbage collection services that started January 3, 2011 for residents in single-family homes in the RethinkWaste service area. CartSMART is a three-cart curbside system consisting of:
    1. Recycle – Blue Cart: For all recyclables mixed together
    2. Compost – Green Cart: For yard trimmings and food scraps
    3. Garbage* – Black Cart: For anything that you can't recycle or compost

    *North Fair Oaks residents have 64-gallon Garbage Carts, and East Palo Alto residents have 96-gallon Garbage Carts.
  • Who is my service provider?
    As of January 1, 2011, Recology San Mateo County (formerly Norcal Waste Systems) is your Recycle, Compost and Garbage collection service provider selected by your community.
  • What communities are participating in the CartSMART program?
    The RethinkWaste service area includes the following twelve communities: Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Unincorporated San Mateo and the West Bay Sanitary District.
  • How do I get a bigger/smaller cart?
    Residents can request smaller or larger Recycle, Compost and Garbage carts by contacting Recology through their website or call them at (650) 595-3900. Please note that changing the size of your black Garbage cart will affect your garbage bill as rates are based on the size of your Garbage cart. There is no charge or change in your garbage bill if you change the size of your blue Recycle or green Compost cart.
  • What can I put in the Recycle Cart?
    With the blue Recycle Cart, you have single stream recycling, where all recyclables can be mixed together - no more sorting! You can mix newspapers, junk mail, cardboard and other paper products with plastic, metal and glass containers. Visit our CartSMART page for Recycle Cart Dos and Don'ts.
  • What can I put in the Compost Cart?
    You can put yard trimmings and food scraps and food- and beverage-soiled paper products in the Compost Cart. Things like leftovers, meat and bones, dairy, fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, pizza boxes and paper plates, napkins and cups will be composted along with grass clippings, prunings and other yard trimmings. Visit our CartSMART page for Compost Cart Dos and Don'ts.
  • What can I put in the Garbage Cart?
    Basically anything that you can’t put in the Recycle or Compost Carts belongs in the Garbage Cart. Items such as Styrofoam packaging, peanuts, and food containers; bagged animal waste and diapers; ceramics, glassware, mirrors and window glass; wrappers, juice pouches, juice and soup boxes lined with foil; and plastic bags, buckets and broken toys. No household hazardous waste and chemicals, electronics, sharps, medicines, liquids, CFLs, motor oil and filters, cell phones and batteries, sod, dirt, rocks, concrete, bricks, or hot ashes. Visit our CartSMART page for Garbage Cart Dos and Don'ts.
  • How often do they collect/service my carts?
    All three of your carts are picked up weekly.
  • Where do I put my carts for collection/service?
    All three of your carts must be placed curbside (in the street) with the wheels against the curb and the arrows on the lid pointing toward the street. Please try and leave about 24 inches between each cart to allow for proper collection. If you live on a street without a curb, place them roadside, again with the arrows on the lid pointing toward the street. Cart placement in the street is required because Recology San Mateo County is using automated trucks with mechanical arms to collect the carts.
  • How do I recycle my holiday tree?
    Once you've removed all the tinsel, lights, decorations and stands from your holiday tree, you can leave the tree next to your green Compost Cart, and Recology will pick it up for you between December 26 and January 31. Please make sure trees are 8 feet and under. If it's taller than 8 feet, cut the tree into lengths of 8 feet or less. After January 31st, trees must be cut up and placed inside the Compost Cart for collection.
  • Can I get additional Recycle or Compost Carts?
    Yes, you can rent additional carts from Recology San Mateo County for a monthly fee.
  • Is there backyard service?
    Yes, Recology San Mateo County will provide the following backyard service: 1) Backyard Collection Service: If you do not wish to leave your carts out curbside or roadside, you can request Backyard Collection Service. Recology will make arrangements to service your carts from a mutually designated area for an additional fee, dependent upon the distance and elevation from the curb; and 2) Special Handling Service: If you have a medical issue that prevents you from bringing your carts out curbside or roadside, Recology will service them for you at no extra charge. You will be asked to provide proof of handicap status by a licensed physician, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, or evidence that there is no one else living on the premises who can physically move the carts for you. Contact Recology at (650) 595-3900 for more information.
  • Do I set my kitchen pails out curbside?
    No. The kitchen pail was provided for in-home use only, do not set it out curbside for collection.
  • What do I do if I'm having issues with my service?
    Recology, as your service provider, strives to provide the best possible service that they can. This includes servicing all of your carts weekly, having professional and courteous employees, placing yours carts where they belong based on service requirements and making sure they clean up any spills that occur as they empty your carts, among others. Please contact Recology at carts@recology.com or call (650) 595-3900 if you experience any issues so that they may be resolved. If you are unable to resolve a service issue with Recology to your satisfaction, or would like to report exceptional service provided by the company, please visit our "Who Do I Contact" page to contact RethinkWaste.
  • What do I do with my old garbage can, recycling tubs/crates and yard trimmings cart that I still have?
    Contact Recology at (650) 595-3900 and they will pick them up. You must use the CartSMART carts for service.
  • Can I use plastic bags in my Kitchen Pail or Compost Cart?
    No. Plastics of any kind, including bags, are not accepted in the Compost program. You can use items such as newspaper or paper bags to wrap your food scraps in before placing in the Compost Cart. You can also now use compostable bags to line your kitchen pail or Compost Cart, and to collect food scraps. The bags must be approved as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), and can be found at Costco, Whole Foods, Mollie Stones and some Safeway, Walgreens and CVS locations.
  • How do I pay my bill?
    You can mail in a check with your bill, or pay online through Recology's website. You can even set up automated billing through Recology's website to receive bills via e-mail you can then pay online. You can also drop off your payment at Recology's offices at 225 Shoreway Road in San Carlos at the Shoreway Environmental Center.
  • Is Recology able to help customers that don't speak English?
    Recology offers a free Language Line with over 170 different languages through their Customer Service Department. Please call Recology at (650) 595-3900 for language assistance and more information.
  • What do I do about raccoons?
    The best deterrent is to keep your carts somewhere indoors where the raccoons can't get to them. For the times your carts are left outside, try covering garbage and compostable materials, especially anything with an exceptionally strong smell, with paper bags or newspaper after placing it in the cart. Try any of following to keep raccoons at bay: -You can repel raccoons with cayenne pepper, which is found at just about any grocery store. Raccoons have a highly sensitive sense of smell and strongly dislike the scent - they will usually avoid it as much as possible. Sprinkle ground cayenne pepper on top of or around your cart. -You can also make a homemade liquid repellent. Boil a quart of water, 1/3 cup of cayenne pepper, and a diced jalapeno pepper for about 20 minutes. Cool and strain, then pour the mixture into an empty spray bottle and spray around your cart. -Commercial organic raccoon repellent products are available for purchase at some pet stores and online. Sprinkle the granules around your carts to keep them away. -Sprinkle the top of your carts with baby powder, or even sand. Raccoons don't like the feel of dust on their paws and might avoid the area if they detect any around. -Place mothballs around the garbage area. Their scent will mask the appealing (to raccoons) odor. -Try using motion sensors that activate lights to scare them off. Raccoons are intelligent animals. If they're unsuccessful at the first attempts to get food at a particular location, they will most likely stay away and look for other sources. Remember to please be careful with raccoons. They can be dangerous if provoked and often carry diseases. Never approach one for any reason. Harming or trapping a raccoon is both illegal and unacceptable.
  • What does my garbage bill cover?
    Even though we call it the "garbage bill," the rate you pay covers a lot more than just your weekly garbage collection service. Please visit our Residential Garbage Rates page for more information about rates.
  • Where do the recycling, compostables and garbage go once they are collected?
    The materials are sent to RethinkWaste’s Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos for processing and transferring to other facilities. The Shoreway facility includes a state-of-the-art Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to process single stream recyclables, increased customer convenience and safety throughout the facility, and an education center. Visit our Shoreway Overview page to learn more.
  • How do I recycle my household batteries and old cell phone?
    Simply place your household batteries or cell phones in a clear, zip-type bag and place the bag on top of the lid of your Recycle Cart. Lithium batteries must be taped and cell phones must be wrapped in paper before being placed in the plastic bag.
  • Can I recycle used motor oil and oil filters curbside?
    Yes, Recology San Mateo County offers curbside collection of used motor oil and used oil filters for recycling at no additional cost. Recology will provide residents with up to five one-gallon plastic jugs for your used motor oil and up to five plastics bags for your used oil filters at a time. Or you can use your own one-gallon jugs with sealable lids for motor oil and zip-type plastic bags for oil filters.
  • How do I schedule a bulky item pick up?
    Residents can schedule two On-Call Bulky Item pick ups annually with Recology for no additional cost. Simply contact Recology at (650) 595-3900 to schedule your pick up or visit their Recology San Mateo County website.
  • How can I get rid of Household Hazardous Waste?
    Communities participating in our Door-to-Door Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection program are Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, San Carlos, City of San Mateo, Unincorporated San Mateo County* and the West Bay Sanitary District. Residents can contact At Your Door Special Collection to schedule an appointment by calling 800-HHW-PKUP, or sending an email to atyourdoor@wm.com. *Unincorporated San Mateo County neighborhoods included in the program: Burlingame Hills, San Mateo Highlands and Baywood Park (Crystal Springs area), Harbor Industrial, Devonshire Canyon, Palomar Park, Oak Knoll, Kensington Square, Emerald Lake Hills, Sequoia Tract and Trailer Ranchero and North Fair Oaks (area of CSA-8), Residents whose community is not participating in the program can properly dispose of their HHW through San Mateo County, visit the HHW Program page for additional information.

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